add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );Brandon Scott, Mayor of Baltimore, Faces Racism Amidst Bridge Tragedy - BANG.
Kaitlyn O'Connor / Gavel Media

Brandon Scott, Mayor of Baltimore, Faces Racism Amidst Bridge Tragedy

After having one of its support piers struck by a ship on March 26, the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed. Eight people were on the bridge when it gave way and fell into the water below, and six men are believed to have died in the tragedy. 

All six were Latino construction workers who were on the bridge filling potholes. Their names were Miguel Luna, Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, Jose Mynor Lopez, and Carlos Hernandez. Only two bodies have been recovered so far, and efforts to bring closure to the families of the deceased have been halted by an abundance of debris, hindering divers’ vision and mobility.

The ship that caused the collapse was the Dali, a 985-foot-long container ship heading to Sri Lanka. It lost power, both engine and electrical, rendering it neither able to be steered nor communicate with anyone, and it subsequently crashed into the bridge at around 1:30 AM. 

With limited energy from a backup generator, the pilot sent an emergency message to shut down the bridge. Police rushed to block traffic, and almost immediately after, the bridge crumbled.

Even though the lives lost in this tragedy have to be emphasized, there are also severe financial ramifications that accompany it. The Port of Baltimore serves a critical role in the economy of Maryland and the United States as a whole. 

Around 20,000 people rely on the port for work, and more than 100,000 rely on income that derives in some way from the port. It is estimated that the port makes $15 million every day, and accounts for a substantial portion of toll revenue of the Maryland Transportation Authority. 

Having no access to the port for an extended period of time would have unbearable outcomes, and, thus, a temporary second channel has been opened up, through which a limited number of ships could pass. Although this is not a sustainable solution and small businesses are being affected especially brutally, it alleviates some economic pressure. 

President Joe Biden has been adamant about a strong and speedy federal response to reopen the Port of Baltimore. He said, “I’ve directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible.” 

There are questions arising concerning where the funds to achieve such a task are coming from. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pointed to a current piece of legislation, having said, “We have money from the bipartisan infrastructure law that could potentially be helpful. My expectation would be that, ultimately, there will be insurance payments in part to cover this. But we don’t want to allow worrying about where the financing is coming to hold up reconstruction.” 

There are ongoing investigations regarding the culpability and liability of the incident. Grace Ocean Private Limited, the company that owns Dali, is looking to either be found not liable or have a cap of 43.6 million dollars for the amount they must pay. 

The filing they submitted to limit their liability stated, “The [bridge collapse] was not due to any fault, neglect, or want of care on the part of [ship owner & operator], the Vessel, or any persons or entities for whose acts [ship owner & operator] may be responsible.”

Prior to the bridge collapse, Brandon Scott, Mayor of Baltimore, was delivering a speech reflecting on the hardships that the city has faced and its resilience to keep pushing forward. Unbeknownst to the crisis that would soon unfold, he said, “I am happy to report that the state of our city is stronger and more resilient than ever.” 

In response to Scott’s comments on the bridge and possible solutions to its destruction, some have taken to social media platforms to attack him with racist remarks. These include calling him “Baltimore’s DEI Mayor,” which refers to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs designed to provide equal opportunity and fair treatment to all people, and saying that he looks like “your average street criminal.” 

These attacks undermine Scott’s vast experience and immense worthiness to hold the position of mayor. Before assuming the role of mayor in 2020, he was a member of the Baltimore City Council from 2011 to 2019 and served as its president from 2019 to 2020. 

Scott has implemented many programs that have had great and tangible impacts on the Baltimore community. This is exemplified exceptionally by the 18.5% decrease in homicides, 21% decrease in burglaries, and 19.3% decrease in non-fatal shootings since April 2022, correlating with his implementation of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy program, which targets and provides support to those at the highest risk of becoming involved in gun violence.

Scott continues to refute any attacks on him based on the color of his skin and recognizes their role in a larger debate about race and leadership, having said, “We are one of the few majority Black cities left, and that’s what they want to attack. They want to attack Black leadership; they want to attack Black culture. But those aren’t things I’m going to shy away from.”

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